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York academic leads global preclinical response to coronavirus emergency

Posted on 31 January 2020

A York academic is leading preclinical research to help to determine the characteristics of coronavirus and to test new potential vaccines.

Professor S.S. Vasan, who holds an honorary chair in Health Sciences at the University of York, will be the principal investigator of this project for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Rapid response

CEPI has announced funding for critical new research as part of a rapid global response, following the declaration from the World Health Organisation that the Wuhan novel coronavirus outbreak is a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.

Undertaken at the highly secure CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory, this preclinical research will help to determine the characteristics of the current virus (a key step in developing a new vaccine) and to test new potential vaccines being developed by three different CEPI-led consortia.

Global research

Prof. Vasan leads the CSIRO Dangerous Pathogens Team, which will design and undertake this crucial preclinical research, development and evaluation. He said: “CSIRO and CEPI are working to complete the preclinical evaluation of candidate vaccines in the shortest possible time. In parallel, there is a need to accelerate the development and evaluation of therapeutics to complement vaccines. This is a marathon and we have just started, therefore it is important to relay in a collaborative manner with researchers around the world.”

Prof. Vasan hopes these issues will be the focus of the WHO’s ‘Global research and innovation forum to finalise the roadmap for the 2019 novel Coronavirus’, in which he will be participating soon. In addition to the Wuhan novel coronavirus, Prof Vasan and his team are also carrying out vital preclinical studies on other deadly diseases such as Ebola and Nipah.

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